Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, singer and bassist of the formative, late-70s, punk-laced metal act Motörhead, passed on December 28th and immediately ascended to rock sainthood. The world would know the Welsh-born bassist as one of the founders of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal – a genre title that arguably was created exclusively for iconic English underground acts like Iron Maiden and Motörhead.
Originally a member of the early 70s space/psych rock band, Hawkwind, Lemmy was fired from the act after what he would notoriously claim was due to “doing the wrong drugs.” Monumentally better things would be in store for the bassist, as he carried on to form Motörhead – an act that would rearrange the face of metal like a skinny schoolboy that fights to the death. The band would release their first effort, Overkill, in 1978 to critical acclaim. in 1980, the notoriously timeless album “Ace of Spades” was released and peaked at #4 on the U.K. charts. The record would go gold, and things would never be the same for the trio . . . or the world.
After 40 years and 23 full-length albums, countless T.V. appearances, a load of of personnel changes, and thousands of gallons of whiskey, Motörhead is a household name. Their fusion of punk rock’s speed, metal’s grist, psych-rock’s flair and balls-to-the-wall attitude is the gold standard of rock.
Kilmister died on the 28th of December after a short battle with an aggressive form of cancer. His death came months after former Motörhead member, Phil Taylor, died, and 4 days after his own 70th birthday. Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee signaled the end of an era, confirming that Motörhead would not continue. “Motörhead is over, of course. Lemmy was Motörhead . . . We won’t be doing any more tours or anything. And there won’t be any more records. But the brand survives, and Lemmy lives on in the hearts of everyone.” Numerous musicians have come forth with memories of Lemmy, but Lemmy laid his musical influence on the bay, as well. Here’s a few choice words by some of South bay’s rock disciples.
Mark Aceves is more aptly known as the bass player for the bruising, stoner rock act Zed. Lemmy left an indelible mark on a young headbanger:
“The first time I saw or heard Motörhead I was 12 or 13 and watched them perform Ace of Spades on the old British comedy, The Young Ones (see video). I was just getting into music and was fascinated by this guy shouting up into the mic. So much so that next time I was at the record store I shoplifted their live album “No Sleep At All” on cassette and fell in love with the raw power, speed and aggression that they pretty much invented back in the 70s. As a bass player, Lemmy is one of a kind in his approach and attack, and it mirrors how he lived. Hard, fast and with no compromise.. No one sounds or plays like him and he’s the reason I own a Rickenbacker, and actually went so far as naming my son Asa Spades! Lemmy was…. No, IS the spirit of Rock and Roll and will never be forgotten as long as people listen to rock music.”
Bobby Daly, guitarist of the now defunct prog-metal act Dark Earth, is gearing up to release the debut effort from his new band, Smoke. He shared his thoughts:
“Lemmy was the spirit animal of rock n roll. Motörhead’s no frills attitude makes you want to crank your amp to ten and start a bar fight all the same. Between the man himself, his time in Hawkwind and the legacy of Motörhead, Lemmy has always been THE rock icon to me, being in one of the great psychedelic bands and then the most powerful. The unkillable has died, now all us slags have to step up our game to try and fill the void.”
Alonso Hernandez, bassist of the South bay punk band, Pounders, Dolores and rapcore act Insolence speaks on Lemmy’s influence across genres:
“Lemmy is rock n roll. He was part outlaw, part folk hero, part enigma and all original. When you are in a band, you strive to obtain these intangible attributes. No matter what band I’m with, or what style of music I’m playing, I’m always walking a road that has already been paved by Lemmy. I set my microphone a little bit higher and tilted down to recreate how he growled into his. My bass tone is dirty and aggressive as a personal tribute to a true Bass God. It’s not about if you are playing metal, punk, alternative, whatever. It’s all rock n roll. That’s what Lemmy was about and that’s what I’ll always hold onto from him.”
Santa Cruz metal force Doors to No Where guitarist, Marc Lewis, shares a lifetime of memories surrounding Kilmister:
“The first time I saw Motörhead I was only 9 years old. My dad took me to see Motörhead. I remember thinking that Lemmy wasn’t real. He couldn’t be. There was no way a human could be that bad ass. I was in awe as this band lead by a giant just slayed. And the music, it got into my DNA. It got into my blood and soul. I remember buying the March or Die tape with my own money and playing it until the tape wear through. Listening to the song “Asylum Choir” off that album, I must of played at least ten times a day. I also remember bring that song for share day in 3rd grade and being so proud of it. I own every Motörhead album and was lucky enough to have seen them live 11 times. When I turned 21 I got to have a shot with Lemmy. It was an experience I will cherish forever. Motörhead and Coc played in SF and I went. Somehow Bill T from Bl’ast! Got us on Motörhead’s bus. Lemmy asked me why I was still on my feet on my 21st birthday after midnight. I told him I didn’t wanna be to drunk to miss Motörhead. He laughed and said, “Good answer kid.”
The real crazy thing about Lemmy and Motörhead is that no one has ever dared talked shit about them. I mean Metallica, GNR, Megadeth, Slayer, Pantera, and countless other metal/punk bands get ripped on everyday in the media by other bands. These are supposedly the most dangerous bands in Rock N Roll but they get slammed constantly. But not Lemmy or Motörhead, no one dares. The fact is you can’t rip on them. First off, Lemmy would crush you, second he doesn’t give a shit what anyone thought. Lemmy and Motörhead always stayed true to what they wanted to do. They never sold out, never tried to commercialize and never stopped being Motörhead. Lemmy was the king of the rock stars but didn’t let being a rockstar change him.”